Week of Proper 24: Tuesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  St. Martin and the Beggar, by El Greco

Being Ready for Jesus–In Whatever Form He Arrives

OCTOBER 24, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Romans 5:6-21 (Revised English Bible):

It was while we were still helpless that, at the appointed time, Christ died for the wicked.  Even for a just man one of us would hardly die, though perhaps for a good man one might actually brave death; but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God’s proof of his love towards us.  And so, since we have now been justified by Christ’s sacrificial death, we shall all the more certainly be saved through him from final retribution.  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, now that we have been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life!  But that is not all; we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus, through whom we have been granted reconciliation.

What does this imply?  It was through one man that sin entered the world, and through sin death, and thus death pervaded the whole human race, inasmuch as all have sinned.  For sin was already in the world before there was law; and although in the absence of law no reckoning is kept of sin, death held sway from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned as Adam did, by disobeying a direct command–and Adam foreshadows the man who was to come.  But God’s act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam’s wrongdoing.  For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.  And again, the gift of God is not to be compared in its effect with that one man’s sin; for the judicial action, following on the one offence, resulted in a verdict of condemnation, but the act of grace, following on so many misdeeds, resulted in a verdict of acquittal.  If, by the wrongdoing of one man, death established its reign through that one man, much more shall those who in far greater measure receive grace and the gift of righteousness live and reign through the one man, Jesus Christ.

If follows, then, that as the result of one misdeed was condemnation for all people, so the result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all.  For as through the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous.

Law intruded into this process to multiply law-breaking.  But where sin was multiplied, grace immeasurably exceeded it, in order that, as sin established its reign by way of death, so God’s grace might establish its reign in righteousness, and result in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Psalm 40:8-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8  Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and so I said, “Behold, I come.

9  In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep in my heart.'”

10  I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11  Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

Luke 12:35-38 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Be ready for action, with your robes hitched up and your lamps alight.  Be like people who wait for their master’s return from a wedding party, ready to let him in the moment he returns and knocks.  Happy are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.  Truly I tell you:  he will hitch up his robe, seat them at table, and come and wait on them.  If in the middle of the night or before dawn when he comes he still finds them awake, and they are happy indeed.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The reading from Romans 5 is one of the most influential passages in New Testament.  I leave it to speak for itself, with one major exception:  Let us not stop with the death of Jesus, for, without the Resurrection, we have dead Jesus, who cannot redeem us from anything.

Speaking of of living Jesus…

The parable in Luke 12 contains elements of stories from Matthew.  Instead of repeating myself here, I refer you, O reader to the links I have embedded in this post while I follow another thread.  Among the expectations in very early Christianity was that Jesus would return next week or next year or sometime soon–probably before one died.  He did not.  And, when our Lord did not keep the schedule that many early Christians thought he might, the canonical gospels, with their origins in the oral tradition (and probably a Q document) began to take shape as writings in Christian communities.  Tradition has identified the authors as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, although many scholars and I harbor doubts about certain claims of authorship.

As you, O reader, might imagine, the question of the Second Coming of Jesus occupied the minds of many early Christians.  If he had not arrived yet, when might he?  Is he late, or does he merely keep a different schedule than we do?  The parable from Luke 12 says that our Lord does not operate according to our schedule, so we ought to remain busy with that work which God has given us to do.  He will come when he comes.

I write these words on Monday, May 9, 2011.  One Harold Camping says that Jesus will return in just under two weeks, on Saturday, May 21.  If you are reading these words after May 21, you know how his prediction turned out.  I do not accept Mr. Camping’s prediction, but you, O reader probably guessed that fact, based on the date for which I have intended it originally–October 18, 2011.

I heard a National Public Radio story about Camping’s prediction two days ago.  One of Camping’s true believers volunteered an unfortunate statement:  He (the true believer) refuses to entertain any doubts as to the May 21, 2011, date because, if he does, he will go to Hell.  That was what he said.  As an Episcopalian, I do not fear doubts; I embrace them.  They prompt me to ask more questions and seek more answers.  I want to honor God with my brain, a process which does not entail shutting down critical thinking.

I choose to leave the details of eschatology to sort themselves out.  What will happen, will happen whenever and however it will occur.  So I will not attend any prophecy conferences ever, most likely.  Instead, I focus on the here and the now.  What work does God have for me to do where I am now?  How is Jesus coming to me now?  Consider the story of St. Martin of Tours (died 397), a Roman soldier and a bishop in what we call France today.  While a catechumen, Martin met a beggar who asked for alms.  The soldier gave the poor man part of his military cloak instead.  Two nights later, Martin had a dream in which he saw Jesus, who wore a half-cloak.  Our Lord said to the saint,

Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with this garment.

May we demonstrate our faithfulness to the God who has redeemed us at great personal cost by following him.  This is a concrete process, one visible aspect of which is how we treat others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves.  When we do it for the least of our Lord’s brothers and sisters, we do it for him.  And when we do not do it for the least of them, we do not do it for him (Matthew 25:31-46).  It is nothing compared to what he did, but it is what God expects of us.  May we, by grace, not disappoint him.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/being-ready-for-jesus-in-whatever-form-he-arrives/

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